There are times when you simply tune out of conversations. No matter how close the person talking to you is because you fail to simply connect with what they are saying. And why just conversations, these days many of us find ourselves shutting out old friends and acquaintances, even family members because of the ever-increasing gap between what we feel and think and their opinion on a certain subject is. Before 2020 hit me, I used to feel politics exposed the hypocrisy of many in my circle. But then this pandemic seems to have brought the worst out of many, and further exposed our loved ones to dispense opinion and advice irrationally.
As this godforsaken year draws to a close, a lot us will sit down to tally our personal gains and losses. The human tendency to tabulate is as hard to get rid of as is the urge to make a new year resolution every year, knowing that you’ll break it before the Christmas cake goes bad. You may not be the only one though if you have lost friendships and trust of family members and well-wishers, all thanks to their behaviour during this pandemic.
It started with ‘Why are you paying your maid when she is not coming to work?’ and ‘Is that all you are doing to help out those in need?’ and eights months in we are at ‘Why are you keeping your daughter indoors all the time?’ to ‘How can you even think of travelling in such times, can’t you stay put for a few more months?’ Around April, I clearly remember how those well off tried to blame the daily wage workers and household helps of being carriers of the coronavirus, looking down upon them. Only after it was pointed out that COVID-19 is a gift from the elite and well-travelled lot, for which the whole world is paying, especially those underprivileged, did people step down from high-ground. For instance, migrants had no choice but to walk back home in masses, because we failed to care for them in our big urban setups. And yet there were many well-educated, well-off people who nodded their heads in disapproval blaming the underprivileged for bringing the numbers up.
We may have grown accustomed to the new normal, and but the truth is, we refuse to let go our sense of righteousness. Politics, religion, art, cinema, music, social media, pandemic…no matter what the subject, this sense of being holier, or rather better than thou, is always peering down our shoulders, manipulating our thoughts. We seek approval, we seek validation, and that only comes to us, when we prove that we know better and that we are doing better than others.
The worst part is that in times when complete strangers have shown compassion and inspired us to be better people, many acquaintances have opted for lip-service over empathy. It makes me wonder, will COVID-19 bereave us of trust? Do people who preach and judge other people for their conduct, during a pandemic want to make a difference or do they just want to prove that they are better?
As I said, there are things on which you can’t put a number. There’s no data that charts lost friendships and sour relationships in the family brought on by COVID-19 policing and preaching. What do I want, you ask? I want to be left alone for the rest of the pandemic. I don’t want to be bothered about what extracurricular activities I have helped my child pick during the pandemic, or how I am helping the needy, or writing “thought-provoking” pieces about COVID-19 management.
Like many, I am just tired. Tired of being told how to wash my vegetables, how to raise my kid and make my family happy, or be a role model for the society in such testing times. This pandemic is not about coming out looking pious and scoring an A-grade in moral science. I am just grateful that I and my loved ones are safe. Not everyone can say that today. So perhaps I’ll just mute the chat or tune out of the conversation again when people begin talking about what I can do better, rather than encouraging me to pat myself on my back for doing my best and just making it through.
The views expressed are the author’s own.
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